January 23, 2007

Q and A: Planning Lessons and Blogging

We are a homeschool family working through our second year of homeschooling (previously, oldest was in private and public school). I was amazed by how many interesting activities and lessons you have done with your children and wondered how you find time to plan for these activities and then write about them afterwards? We have similarly aged children (9 y.o. son, 5 y.o. son and 3 y.o. daughter).

Thanks for any insight you can share. I'm still learning to balance our day and find time to plan. We are using Konos, which has lots of hands on activities and takes quite a bit of planning and prep work compared to other canned curriculums.

I will start this whole post with a reminder that what you read here is not what EVERY day is like. You are reading our best moments and the things we treasure and want to share. I bet if anyone reading this kept a log like I do you would find that you do as many interesting activities and lessons (if not more) you just might have never put them all in one place to look at like I do.

I will also be honest most of our best lessons are impromptu and not planned fully through. They just seem to happen spontaneously and the one thing I do is allow them to happen and just go with the flow when they occur. I am a quick researcher so it is easy enough for me to pull something together when they show interest. The internet makes this very easy to do. Doing an activity based on the child's interest and desire is what makes it fun and work.

Sometimes I plan enough ahead to simply have the resources around the house I will need so they are here when I want them. For example if we are coming up on the Middle Ages in the history text about a week or so ahead of time I try to get to the library and check out a bunch of interesting books including some craft and activity books so if they are interested we have things to pull from right away. Sometimes I just use google to pull up other people's lessons and then modify them the way they need to be for my kids and our lesson.

There are of course exceptions such as my major lesson plans. I typically do these for classes I am teaching at the cooperative so it is not just for my few kids and I know they are receiving that much effort and time from other parents in the other classes they are taking. Most of my very involved book lesson plans are a result of a cooperative class (such as the American girl and preschool picture books) and I do put time into those. Often though I am not alone in the planning and execution of these classes and that makes a difference.

Field trips and outings are a passion of mine for my children and for other children so I do not mind doing them - they are fun for me to organize and I find them worth my time. I typically try to extend on a field trip at home with related activities. But again this is usually checking something out of the library or the result of about 5 minutes on google.

Also I do pull quite a bit from our curriculum itself. I love the Story of the World series for history and it gives me a lot of great ideas, more typically then I will do. Our science curriculum offers a lot of interesting activities and ideas as well. The rest of our curriculum is rather straightforward and easy to execute with little to no prep work for me. This means that I have a lot of time to spend on areas that I feel need more work to bring to life (namely history and science).

Children remember those subjects through experience and activity so I try to do a lot of that and our language arts, math, handwriting, spelling, grammar are all pretty boring and dry. But they are also straightforward.

You also need to know yourself and your kids and see if your style and curriculum choices fit well. I know I don't work well with a curriculum that require a lot of planning all the time, I would be setting myself up for failure. Because I have learned the best activities for us are the ones that at least one member of the family is passionate and interested in (whether it be my children or myself). I save my planning time for those whenever possible and then the energy is high and the rewards are great. Of course sometimes I have to put planning into something just because it is important and as they get older I imagine that will be true all the more. But for now whenever possible I try to really put effort into areas with the greatest reward. We are also classically styled in school so I don't worry about making EVERYTHING interesting, some of it they just have to accept they have to learn because they do whether or not it is interesting or boring.

From what little I know about Konos is it a high prep time, intensive planning curriculum but it has a lot of great activities in it so you probably are doing a lot already. If you feel you want more time for something you may need to cut planning time in other areas. But my first suggestions would be to write a TaDa list (instead of a To Do) acknowledging all the things you did. Just brief at the end of the day - you may be amazed at all that is going on that you simply were not recognizing before.

That is what blogging does for me. It allows me a space to keep track of all that we have done for me to look back on those days when I need a reminder of what to do, what it is all about or just some inspiration. It acts as a record for my kids to see all the fun things we did growing up and for my family to see (from all around the country) what we do in homeschooling and our lives. I don't spend a lot of time (ok probably more than I should) but I am a fast typer and I dpn't edit or spend a lot of time pondering over what I write. I just sit down, type and press post, for better or worse.

I used to do it at night, and not every day. Lately I have been doing it more in the morning because I have found my kids get along and really like each other early in the morning and want to spend time together and they don't mind if I am on the computer then. Sometimes I just start a post and leave it until I have time to get back to it - like this one.

Speaking of which it is time for me to end this post and get going on our day here. Remember to be gentle on yourself and to enjoy school and your kids. I am sure you are already doing many many wonderful and interesting things all together sometimes we just need to stop and recognize that.


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